By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
KENT CITY – Kenzie Bowers’ mother made sure her daughter wasn’t going to grow up to become just a scorer.
An extra incentive did just the trick.
“When I was younger my mom would record my games, and she would give me a dollar for every five or 10 points, but then she would also give me a dollar for every assist, too, because she didn’t want me to go out there and think that I was just going to score,” the Kent City standout sophomore said. “That was my way of thinking I was going to score, but I’m not going to be selfish with the ball because I wanted money both ways.”
Bowers, a 5-foot-10 guard, is still doing her share of scoring and distributing, and she’s picking up where she left off after a sensational freshman season.
In her debut campaign on the varsity, Bowers averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while also leading her team in assists and steals en route to being named to the Class C all-state first team.
Bowers also helped spark Kent City’s historic postseason run to the Class C Quarterfinals.
“I’ve talked to Coach since seventh grade, and he told me if I kept working hard then he would have a spot for me on the varsity,” Bowers said. “He wanted me to be a leader, and I knew I was going to have to be a leader. I was ready for it, and I expected it.”
Kent City girls basketball coach Scott Carlson has known Bowers since first grade and helped coach her at every level leading up to high school.
He knew early on that she had a bright future ahead.
“By third grade you knew she was going to be a ball player because she was playing with our fifth and sixth-grade travel players at that point,” Carlson said. “She could handle the ball, and she loved the game. She was a baller from the word go.”
Bowers’ passion for the game developed from watching her two older brothers, and she started playing with older girls when she was in third grade.
“I was the only third-grader, and I think it was definitely good to have that experience going into my fourth and fifth grade years when I was playing against girls my own age,” Bowers said. “You could tell I had played recently, and I was the second or third tallest girl on my team, but I was very skinny.”
Bowers’ overall skill set quickly progressed. She attended multiple basketball camps and started playing AAU.
As middle school began, college coaches became aware of Bowers’ rare abilities.
“Seventh grade was the first time someone told me that college coaches were watching me and they thought I was pretty good,” Bowers said. “I was like, ‘College coaches are watching me?’ It was definitely surreal.”
A highlight of Bowers’ first high school season was a 37-point performance in a Regional Semifinal win over Beaverton.
Kent City went on to win its first Regional title in 29 years before losing to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Quarterfinals.
“She certainly surpassed what I expected of her as a freshman, but it didn’t surprise me in how hard she works,” Carlson said. “She’s very athletic, and she’s a quick study. If you show her something once she gets it quick, as quickly as anyone I’ve ever seen, and she’ll work on it until she perfects it.”
Bowers already has received several scholarship offers from Division I college programs, including Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Davidson and Oakland.
“It’s been really cool knowing I can go play college basketball at the next level,” Bowers said. “It makes me feel blessed and happy because I know I don’t have to spend all that money and I get to do something I love.”
Kent City is 4-1 this winter with its lone loss coming to Detroit Martin Luther King, 40-39.
Bowers is one of eight returning players from last season’s 22-4 squad.
“We didn’t lose anybody, so we know we are going to be a good team,” Bowers said. “We’re working to get better and make it further this season.”
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Kenzie Bowers drives to the basket against White Cloud during a Dec. 7 win. (Middle) Bowers works to get past a Detroit Martin Luther King defender during their Dec. 8 game at Okemos. (Photos courtesy of the Bowers family.)